Sustainable cocoa and coffee

Taking Ivorian cocoa to the higher level

April 18, 2023

Ivory Coast is one of the world's largest cocoa suppliers. Yet the farmers that grow cocoa do not earn enough to cover even their basic costs of living, cocoa production takes its toll on forests and child labour is rampant. Colruyt Group and Rikolto collaborate with Ivorian cooperative Entreprise Cooperative de Saint Paul, Fairtrade Belgium, the chocolate processor Puratos and UGent to make Colruyt Group's private label chocolate sustainable from bean to shelve, and ensure a living income for cocoa farmers. This is part of the Beyond Chocolate initiative launched by the Belgian government: an industry-wide commitment aimed at achieving 100% sustainably produced chocolate by 2025 and a living income for all cocoa farmers by 2030.

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Daregba and Colonel, San Pedro

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102 cocoa farmers

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  • Currently, cocoa production in both Daregba and Colonel is at an average of 400 kg per hectare distributed over 250 hectares. Our goal is to increase productivity up to 800 kg/ha without increasing overall cocoa production. We want to intensify some of the existing production systems to produce more cocoa on a smaller land area, allowing farmers to cultivate 50 ha with other food crops, reforest 50 ha, and use the remaining 150 ha to grow cocoa in agroforestry systems.
  • Due to the lack of a proper fermentation and drying process for cocoa beans, the quality of cocoa remains a challenge for cocoa producers. Poor fermentation and improper post-harvest handling processes deny cocoa farmers access to additional income in the form of a premium on quality cocoa beans. In addition, as most cocoa growing households’ farm size and productivity levels are below the expected levels for generating a living income, we will promote income diversification and entrepreneurship among cocoa farmers in both communities to increase their resilience.
  • Access to finance continues to be a major challenge for cocoa farmers who want to invest in their farms or income diversification activities.
  • Lack of a professional agricultural service sector in cocoa growing areas leaves cocoa growers with no option but to engage children to maintain their cocoa farms, making it one of the drivers of child labour in cocoa producing communities. Therefore, reducing the incidence of child labour through tackling the lack of services will be one of the primary goals in the project.
  • Without decent employment opportunities, young people migrate to cities in search of non-existent jobs.
  • Gender equality is still an issue: women perform about half of the tasks on the cocoa farm, being mainly involved in early plant care and post-harvest activities fundamental to the final quality of cocoa beans, but men are the ones who mainly control the marketing and income. Moreover, they count on lower education levels, access to smaller and less fertile plots, time constraints due to competing household responsibilities, and limited access to financial services, inputs, equipment, and training.

"With the new project in Ivory Coast, we are taking up the major challenge of setting up truly sustainable cocoa production in Africa. This is the first time for Rikolto that we will be working in Ivory Coast."

Abdulahi Aliyu - Global cocoa and coffee programme director

The Beyond Chocolate Charter

In December 2018, the Beyond Chocolate Charter was launched by the Belgian government as a joint initiative by the Belgian chocolate and retail sector, civil society, social investors and universities to make Belgian chocolate more sustainable. This industry-wide commitment aims to tackle child labour, combat deforestation, and ensure a viable income for local cocoa producers. The Belgian chocolate sector aims to achieve 100% sustainably produced chocolate by 2025 and a living income for all cocoa farmers by 2030.

Our approach

This project focuses on income diversification and entrepreneurship of farmers as crucial elements in securing and sustaining a living income for cocoa-growing households in Ivory Coast. In this chain-wide collaboration, Rikolto joins forces with Colruyt, Puratos, Fairtrade Belgium, Ghent University, Agro-Insight, Access Agriculture and Ivorian cocoa cooperative Entreprise Cooperative de Saint Paul (ECSP). Each partner in this consortium brings critical perspectives and experiences to the table to put this integrated approach into practice.

We will work closely with two communities of Daregba and Colonel with the aim of improving the living conditions of 102 cocoa producing households in the area, by increasing biodiversity and climate change resilience. The project will also test the living income model to prove its viability for large-scale implementation in the cocoa sector.

Increase productivity

We will set up demonstration plots to facilitate the adoption of good agricultural practices, as they serve as learning centres where people are taught how to produce quality compost to reduce fertiliser use on their farms, hence reducing production costs and contributing to waste management. In addition, to minimise negative impacts on climate change in the area, 80,000 trees will be planted on 1,000 hectares in partnership with Puratos and state institutions. Economic and suitable shade trees for agroforestry will be identified and selected. At the same time, cocoa farmers will be trained on the importance of shade trees for climate adaptation, income diversification and the living environment, and women from the communities of Daregba and Colonel will learn how to maintain forest seedling nurseries as a business.

Improve bean quality

A drying and fermentation centre in line with Puratos’ specifications will be installed in each community. Women will be specifically trained in drying, fermentation, leadership and management, to manage the operations of the centres on behalf of ECSP, while cocoa producers will be trained in harvest and post-harvest processes to improve the quality and consistency of cocoa beans.

It's a complex story, because you don't want to create an oversupply of cocoa. That is why we are also working on income diversification in addition to cocoa production. For example, this project focuses on training women to ferment cocoa beans locally in the villages. This means that more income remains in the village and the position of the women is strengthened.

Johan Van den Bossche - Project manager sustainable value chains

Divesify income

We will explore intercropping of cocoa with cassava and cowpea, facilitating access to planting material for both crops and providing specific training on Good Agricultural Practices. Moreover, dedicated demonstration plots on crop diversification and a farmer-to-farmer training video on intercropping will be developed, while women will be supported to process cassava and farmers will be linked to markets to facilitate access for their cassava and cowpea sales.

Ensure access to finance

Four Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) will be set up in the two communities. These are self-managed and self-capitalised micro-funds, among farmers in both communities, which will provide cocoa growers with easy access to finance. Members of VLSAs will also receive training on financial planning, investment opportunities within the communities for effective use of finances, and the use of mobile payment systems. Finally, VSLAs will be linked to formal financial institutions that are willing to provide cheaper financing to members of VSLAs.

Fight against child labour

To deal with the lack of a professional agricultural service sector and child labour, the project will develop the service sector by supporting young people to establish businesses that provide market-based farm management services to farmers, such as quality pruning and fertiliser services to cocoa growers. Together with the focus on income diversification it should allow cocoa producers to no longer rely on child labour.

As of June 2020, Colruyt Group starts with the annual purchase of 100 tons of cocoa from 102 cocoa producers.
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The first results, after one year

The 102 cocoa farmers involved in this project, whose cocoa is transformed into chocolate bars for Colruyt Group, receive premiums on top of the farm gate price fixed by the Conseil Cacao Café in Côte d’Ivoire: a fair trade premium and Cocoa Trace premiums. Additionally, Colruyt Group has committed to paying a premium to farmers on top of that, to ensure they earn enough to afford a decent standard of living. An analysis showed that farmers that participate in the project earned about 30% more than the farm gate price for cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire in the season of 2020-2021.

Expected results by the end of the project

  • 102 cocoa growing households from Daregba & Colonel communities have been trained in Good Agricultural Practices and have achieved a living income
  • The number of hectares of cocoa farms under agroforestry systems will be increased in the Daregba and Colonel communities. In addition, two drying and fermentation centres and seedling nurseries have been set up and are led by women.
  • The access to finance and to quality and affordable farm management services at the community level will improve, discouraging child labour and creating employment opportunities for young people within these communities.
  • Besides developing and testing the different parameters of the living income model, the project will also make the business case for scaling up the living income model and farm service provision. Lessons learned will be shared through cocoa Public Private Partnership platforms in Ivory Coast, Beyond Chocolate and the Living Income Community of Practice. In this way, we expect to indirectly reach a much larger number of cocoa farmers. In addition, Colruyt aspires to have its full chocolate range produced under sustainable practices throughout the whole supply chain.

"In addition to the market price, Colruyt will pay a living income differential, a fair trade and quality premium, a chocolate bonus and an extra premium. Colruyt wants to provide a stable market access at a good price that ensures that the gap is closed with the so-called 'Living Income Reference' price. That is the price that enables a producer to earn a living income with a profitable company size and a sustainable level of productivity."

Towards a living income for cocoa farmers in Daregba and Colonel

What are the first results of the partnership? 

Read more

Who do we work with?

Agro Insight
Colruyt Group
Access Agriculture
 Fairtrade Belgium


Abdulahi Aliyu

Cocoa and Coffee | Global director

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